I found myself knocking on an unlikely door recently. I’m not a religious person, but I arrived at the door of St. Augustine’s church to light a candle for a friend. As I struggled with the key code, a woman appeared next to me and let me in. After lighting the candle I turned around to see the late afternoon sun streaming through the stained glass windows, projecting disco-ball-like colored spots of light on the pews. Beautiful, delicate light. And I started to cry.

In the 13 months since I was diagnosed with breast cancer I have had some of the darkest days of my life. But I have also seen light, thanks to Island organizations and the supportive community I’ve found here.

I have never been one to ask for help, but breast cancer is a journey that you cannot go on alone. Days after I was diagnosed I went to the Up-Island Council on Aging to apply for heating assistance. I saw a pamphlet for the Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group and a woman brought me into her office, closed the door and asked how she could help. I left with an application for food assistance, a bag full of fresh vegetables, some canned goods and an invitation to return.

A couple of weeks later, after a Menemsha sunset that was as pink and glowing orange as I have ever seen, I shared news of my diagnosis on Facebook. The decision to go public gave me a level of support that I couldn’t have imagined. Immediately, messages of condolence and well wishes came through. Offers flowed in to feed my cat, Phinnaeus, while I was meeting with doctors in Boston, to come along for company or to use a car on the other side.

I made countless trips to Boston, a financial expense that I had not expected. Thankfully, the Steamship Authority offers reduced rates for medical situations. I was one of the first people to apply to the Transportation Access Program managed by Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, which provided ferry gift cards and reimbursement for overnight hotel expenses. Angel Flight provided me with quick and easy flights to see my doctors after surgery, when I was unable to drive.

On a spring day after my first chemotherapy treatment, my mother and I stopped into Conroy’s to fill a prescription. Visibly shaken and exhausted, I was told by a woman behind the counter that if I ever needed a “mom hug” to come see her. A month ago I told her that I had my first post-treatment mammogram and that I would be okay. We hugged, finally. I told her that even though I had never taken her up on her offer, I always knew it was there.

These colorful spots of light carry me through my journey, and just like the light dancing on the pews, each one brings tears to my eyes.

Alison L. Mead is a freelance photographer and writer in Chilmark.